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When Will We Stop Fearing Technology?

The bane of every energy engineer's existence….When a control's contractor tells you to "REMOVE EVERY SCHEDULE FROM THE BAS BECAUSE IT WAS HOT THIS MORNING IN THE ZONES!" because the schedule you have meticulously configured and monitored to propose energy/equipment wear reduction strategies may end up leading to momentary discomfort…maybe. I was in this exact situation recently where we were five days away from a building being occupied and had a particularly hot couple of days. This allowed the Unoccupied Setpoints to hit their limits of 76 degrees before entering an Occupied Setpoint of 72 degrees during the early morning hours to achieve those temperatures prior to the building’s daily usage hours. Sounds reasonable right? Let the occupancy do its thing to accommodate the building’s needs while managing the energy more effectively to save some money and reduce footprint.

Well, the above scenario gets absolutely annihilated by one single thing: The fear of potential momentary discomfort by a tenant. The request for the removal of schedules was not open for discussion to possibly reduce the aggressiveness of the scheduled setpoints or the duration of the unoccupied state. It was a demand with all the desperation and lack of care for alternatives that you would see with any attempt to mitigate a foreseeable and guaranteed disaster. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the “disaster” is not real but fabricated by fear created by an industry that values the appearance of occupant comfort above all else. This valuing comfort is not the problem. HVAC systems are intended to always maintain peak comfort when in proper repair based on an engineered design. The real problem is a lack of trust in the technology and process applied to buildings that are programmed to achieve goals outside of the pure 24/7 comfort times and/or maintain that comfort only when it is required so that the building can experience reduced operational, maintenance and energy costs. This problem leads to an industry that will almost always eliminate the secondary goal if the primary goal of tenant comfort is in any perceived danger.

LET'S COMMUNICATE! Let's start a culture of reviewing historical data to properly vet out different implementations and share those findings with the building owner and other parties involved in the construction or the ongoing maintenance of the property. Offer options that allow people to consider more than one aspect of how they live within a space, take it beyond personal demands and extend it to personal responsibility. In some cases, it will be a lost battle and constant perfection of comfort will win out but in others, it could be that eureka moment of "I had no idea that implementing a schedule could have such a positive effect on our power consumption and our environment." Communication, data transference, and patience will help us save our environment and operate more efficiently to combat this attack on building optimization and responsible utilization.

We need to re-think our responses to potential troubles with regards to ECM implementations impeding comfort or the perception of comfort. Fear is removed through understanding and it is our responsibility to share that understanding within the building's space and slowly remove the fear that has damaged our equipment, pocketbooks, and planet.


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